The Driving Test as Evidence of the Forces of Evolution.

To what extent do the forces of evolution shape and affect the driving test. What are those forces. It certainly changes and we will look at how that affects the test. One thing is for certain, it’s gotten more difficult over the years.

Volume of Traffic:


The first and most obvious thing is that this increases year after year. As the traffic increases so does the opportunity for your pupil to miss something and fail during the test. One effect of this is you have less dead time on lessons. The more hazards there are in a given space, the more actively you will have to be dealing with them. So a nice clear road with nothing happening is the dead time.


Was traffic volume one of the reasons for the Turn in The Road and The Corner Reverse no longer being in the test. Certainly where I work it just became too hard to find suitable spots. Residents in the few suitable areas are no longer being overwhelmed by lots of learners practicing. The test centres do not seem to have all those notices now saying keep away from so and so.


Your pupil still has to demonstrate to the examiner that they can get round the test route safely. Are the other road users conspiring to stop your pupil passing. How often do you hear the comment “I’d have passed if it wasn’t for………..”. This leads to a view that the driving test is self regulating.


How much of what happens on test will have come about politically. Certainly the government will set a number of strategic objectives for its agency The DVSA like raising of driving standards and reducing the accident rate. But what about other things.


The need for a driving test came with The Road Traffic Act 1934. As driving instructors the need to be on The Register was created under The Road Traffic Act 1988. Section 5 if you are interested. Other bits of legislation will affect how we do our jobs. But it has to be legislated which is a political decision, even if some of the things are no-brainers. 


We are no longer allowed to have a translator on test. This by default means that the driving test has become a test of understanding spoken English (or Welsh). I am sure the reason given will be that translators were giving help to the candidate. But they have always done that. Is it because a rising number of overseas candidates have made it an issue. 


What about doing the test in Polish. There are roughly the same number of Polish speakers as those of Welsh in the UK as a whole. But Welsh is recognised by The DVSA as an official language when conducting business in Wales. So the language used for conducting the test is a political decision. 


As our understanding grows about how we can improve road safety we introduce changes into the driving test. The practical side of driver testing is not long enough to cover the whole syllabus. But the introduction of The Theory Test can ask questions about what can not be covered.


The hazard perception side of things has come into being because of the accident rate of new drivers. This is because they are young and inexperienced. As both are linked it is difficult to know what to do. You can do nothing about age and the level of maturity someone has. But we can try to teach experience.


So this becomes part of the test. As it becomes incorporated this evolves. Touch screens, better quality (CGI) clips and so it moves on. The Show Me Tell Me (SMTM) at least gives our pupils some knowledge about what they can do to keep a car safe. Some of the answers we get can be illuminating. I can not be the only one who has pupils who think that kicking a tyre is the way to check it. Or the way to put oil into an engine is to baste it like a chicken. 


Is the test shaped by how the car and the world around us has evolved. Inside the car sat nav is the most obvious change. Generally the car has become safer and more comfortable, proper use of seat belts and head restraints would be something our parents would not have had to worry about on tests. 


SMTM  asks us to know more about our cars and how to keep them safe. Buy a new car and it takes a while to get to know what all the various features are and how to get the best use out of them. At least your pupils will know about PAS and ABS. Keeping the tyres safe and legal will keep them safe and legal.


Hand signals are no longer used by drivers. That said your pupil should understand them. Cyclists and horse riders should use them.  But how many of us teach the slowing down or left turn arm signals. Knowing how to change a bulb might be more relevant.

What can we take away from this view of the test:

  • As things around us change so driving changes
  • Driving changes in response to many things